Tuesday, 29 December 2015

And he was excommunicated...

I picked up a copy of George Tyrrell's "Hard Sayings" from a second hand shop and have been working my way through it.  His prose style is floridly and bombastically Anglo-Irish and the book isn't universally edifying but it is sound. But some of the chapters have left me a bit disturbed because of their beautiful orthodoxy. For those of you that don't know, George Tyrrell was thrown out of the Jesuits and later excommunicated (but did receive the last rites) because of his "Modernist" views ..... it appears he fell foul of Cardinal Merry del Val ..... he died in 1909.

I retype some of his writing on marriage because I've rarely read such a good, pithy, defence of marriage from a Catholic writer.  Had this been put before the Synod on Marriage, I doubt anyone could have put up a counter argument and remained a Catholic.

And so we see that it is precisely because woman has a soul to save, that she is a help fit and worthy of man; a help in the great work of saving the soul first of her husband and then of his children; and that marriage, as God intended it, is not merely a carnal union, but principally a joining of souls; that its end is not to replenish and overpopulate the earth with animals more canino, but to fill Heaven with saints; to multiply bodies for the sake of souls.

and there is more... this bit could  have been written this year, it is darkly prescient...

[Parents should be] conscious and intelligent agents of Christ [in the] engracement and supernatural sanctification [of their children]...

Such being the type, the ideal of Christian marriage, what shall we say of the reality as we see around us in this de-Christianized country, where Catholics find it so hard, so impossible to keep mind or heart free from the infectious pestilence of unbelief, misbelief and moral corruption; a country where the true idea of a sacrament of any sort has been lost to the people at large for three centuries; where the nature of the Church and of her mystical union with Christ is wholly unknown; where the Catholic teaching concerning purity and chastity is simply ridiculed as Manichean in theory and impossible in practice; where the law of the land sanctions an adulterous remarriage of those who have been divorced, and permits marriages which in the Church's eyes are incestuous, null, and void; whose religion despises virginity and celibacy, and holds but lightly to the perpetuity or unity of Christian marriage.

Surely it is only too evident that Protestantism has done its work thoroughly; that it has first rationalised the notion of marriage and robbed it of all its mystical and spiritual import; then secularized what was a sacrament of the Gospel, and betrayed it into the hands of Caesar; and by these means has finally succeeded in degrading and profaning an institution on whose elevation and purity the whole fabric of true civilisation depends. 

It seems to me like George Tyrrell, through being on the wrong side of the debate about the role of Thomism and Scholasticism fell foul of the Church's fear of Modernism and paid the price, and meanwhile whist thinking She was shoring up her defences against Modernism, Holy Mother Church was blind to the devil who used the near universally appalling teaching of Thomism that ensued after Pius X, to sneak in and assist in the havoc of the development of  Nouvelle Theologie where grace and nature are confused and where all soundness and clarity are lost, and where God is so often reduced to sentiment..... I could get sad, if I let myself,...  I may copy out some of his teaching on purity and chastity, it's brilliant.

(Incidentally, the book "Hard Sayings" has an "Imprematur" from Cardinal Vaughan, which is good enough for me.)

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Astronomical reflection

A Happy and Holy Christmas to my loyal reader

I'm recalling the feast of the Immaculate Conception 2014.  Somehow it seemed to be one of those momentous, yet hiddenly significant days.  The church where I went to  Mass that evening was beautiful and Father preached with lightness and joy.  He quoted a French poet who died in WW1 who said "The Immaculate Conception is everything!".  And yes he was/is right.  There is something so spectacularly true, beautiful and good about that feast; about how it manifests God's loving relationship to His creatures.  And the heavens agreed.  Shining through the windows of the small church and providing illumination to my missal was a staggeringly bright, clear full moon.  The moon was utterly resplendent in the reflected light of the sun.  Yes, thought I, this will be the year of the Immaculate Conception for me, she will guide me, she will protect me, she will be my truth in darkness. She who conquers all heresies, she who loves with all tenderness....

And on the way home and for a couple of hours afterwards, I was treated to a crowning of the moon with a 22 degree halo (as shown below, only it was much sharper).  It sealed my resolve to make this the year of the Immaculate Conception. I was high with the beauty of it all.

It is probably wrong to read too much into the heavens.....

On New Year's day, I played the "find me a saint for 2015" game and visited a site that would do just that.  St John Berchmans was chosen for me, and I must admit to knowing nothing about him at the time.  BUT it was he who did much to promote devotion to the Immaculate Conception and he has been my rock this year.  He has been a devoted companion and his resolve to make the ordinary duties of state holy has been my resolve too.  It has been a foul year, but he has been there for me.  I have been fortunate enough to make a journey to a relic of him and receive a blessing with it.  I think he will be a permanent patron, I can't imagine being without him now.

And then things got really bad....
I asked a priest for advice and he suggested that I make a 33 day consecration to Our Lady, as after the Sacraments this should be just about the most powerful source of protection one could have.  A plan was drawn up and the 33 days this would finish on the feast of the Immaculate Conception 2015. After a couple of weeks when I saw far more than usual of the inside of the confessional, things settled down and the consecration was done with little fuss, a lightness of touch, and a deep interior peace.

What about the heavens that night?  Everything was overcast.  No sign of the moon. Father's preaching was far sterner, but it was what we needed to hear.  It was about the Truth.  It was about Mercy in Truth.  There was a tangible weight of exhaustion about the church, about the people, about everything...... but She was there..... only totally hidden.......

The following morning, as if to re-echo this, there appeared the tiniest slither of a moon and what looked to be Mars and Venus, competing with each other in their brightness and boldness.  It felt as if she was most definitely there, but nearly completely hidden..... but that is when she is at her most powerful.....

It is probably wrong to read too much into the heavens.......

Now, tonight, Christmas Eve 2015, the moon is nearly completely full... and Our Lady is fully aglow with the impending birth of her Son.  She is leading us to Him.....

And we so desperately need Him to be born anew in our hearts.  There is so much healing needed, and as one of the antiphons this morning said....

This day you shall know that the Lord is coming, and tomorrow you shall see His glory....


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Early Doors

For those of you unfamiliar with the term "early doors" , it is a Northernism for something happening sooner than expected....

This morning I had one of those moments.  I attend an 8am Mass at some distance from my home at a large and "important" church which has been designated as a place of pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy and so has a Holy Door.

When I arrived at Mass, it was just like any other Sunday; cold dark, nobody around save a jogger and the odd taxi driver.  As usual, after a long journey and post-morning medication, I was in need of the lavatory.  This can only be accessed at that hour from inside the church. I was not thinking about much more than my bladder as I walked towards the church porch.  Post-toilet, I'd get into "worship-zone", bless myself at the stoup, genuflect before the Lord and take my place in my pew of choice.  But lo and behold, the usual door to the church was cordoned off and we were to walk through the Holy Door.

Oh, hang on a minute thought I, this isn't fair!  Essentially this is my door to the lav, I'm going to the loo before I go to Mass. I would like to be able to choose when I make use of the Holy Door, to mediate on what I am doing, and to conform heart, mind and body to God's designs and Holy Mother Church's generosity in being able to grant indulgences. I was hoping for a special first use of the Holy Door, not one thrust upon me with no choice, when nature had the upper hand.

I don't suppose it matters much.  Grace perfects nature, it doesn't override it.  We all have calls of nature, and whilst alive, we always will.

It is a bit like life really.  Things don't happen in the order we want them to.  Things don't happen at times we think would be most suitable.  Sometimes thinking of God is thrust upon us when it is "inconvenient".....

and just perhaps Mercy works in that way..... we may do all we can to seek repentance, to be contrite, to promise God we will do of our best in future, but we keep doing it on our terms, perhaps we have to stop thinking about ourselves completely, perhaps our hopes and desires are nothing more significant than the fullness of our bladders, yet God comes to us.  God meets us in our corrupted nature and maybe we never really "know" when we have been in receipt of His mercy, we could have thought we were just going to the loo, but God had other plans....

I can and will pick up indulgences for myself, sinner that I am, and for the Holy Souls in Purgatory in good time.

Saturday, 5 December 2015


There are some characters in Holy Scripture who are difficult to like, I find Jacob and his favourite son Joseph fall into this category.  For various reasons I’ve been meditating a lot on Jacob and Esau lately and feel I am coming to some sort of understanding of Jacob that I’d like to share with you. Joseph will have to wait.

It is all about trying to see God’s ways, not ours, and it isn’t easy.

Isaac’s wife Rebekah has twins struggling in her womb and it certainly seems like an unpleasant pregnancy.

And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two people, born of you, shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”

God sets the scene, God is in charge and I have no doubt that as young children whist Esau was doing manly stuff with his dad, Rebekah would dandle Jacob on her knee and tell him of God’s plans for him.  Jacob isn’t slow at coming forward and realising his brother’s weakness so that the elder sells his birthright to the younger “for a plate of mess”. The two nations warring in Rebekah’s womb are nature and grace and nature will always be weaker and succumb to its lusts.  This doesn’t make nature any less lovable, and at this stage grace seems to be somewhat devious, unpleasant and downright unfair. And there is Rebekah, who so may ancient writers see as a prototype of Our Lady, making absolutely sure Jacob gets his due and his father’s blessing, even if it means deceit.

It is too easy to read the story as if it ended there, as if Isaac’s blessing of Jacob was to be some sort of triumph, and if we read it like that, then it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.  Almost as if Rebekah is the handmaid of a cruel and uncaring God who approves of deceit and trickery to get His way.

What struck me when I read this recently is what Jacob says to his father as he is busy fooling him into thinking that he is his brother Esau
Isaac said: “Are you really my son Esau?” Jacob answered “I am”.

He doesn’t say “yes”, he says “I am”, which is far more potent. In a sense, as twins, “he is” Esau, as Esau is Jacob, there is a unity in twins that defies explanation. In another sense he is about to become his brother, indeed, the life he is about to embark on will sanctify the pair of them.  Jacob has to become as worldly as Esau (wives, children, livestock, that kind of thing) and in something that certainly seems to be divine justice, Jacob is deceived and deceived again by his supremely unlikable kinsman Laban.   And it makes Jacob, he is refined in the refiner’s fire of Laban’s household.  Jacob never forgets God and Grace leads and Nature follows.  After Laban’s treatment of him, Jacob must be even more acutely aware of Esau’s hatred of him.  

 So after he has freed himself from Laban, it is no surprise that Jacob, before the eventful meeting with Esau, wrestles with God. Jacob wants his blessing from God, he’s been through a lot and God seems to have forgotten the promise made to his mother.  Jacob wrestles till he gets his blessing.  He wants to survive his brother’s wrath. The grace in Jacob is made more magnificent in his anger and sense of justice.  Jacob has become a hunter and he knows his quarry, and his quarry is God. Meanwhile, the elder brother has had to have supernatural strength to forgive the younger so that it is only by the Grace of God that they can meet as equals in all humility and the pair of brothers by the end of those verses are almost indistinguishable in their forgiveness, graciousness and wealth. They are not equal, Jacob (Israel) is God’s chosen (through Israel will the salvation of the world be wrought), but that doesn’t deny Esau his due, his God-given dignity.

Had Rebekah not instigated the action, had Esau not been tricked and learnt to overcome his anger, had Jacob not had to suffer Laban, Jacob would not have been half the man he became and nor would his brother.  The elder would have always been the worldly but amiable fool and the younger, the other-worldly layabout and drifter. Rebekah did the best for both her sons.

God’s ways are not ours and somehow it seems worth reminding ourselves of this when we think He is not doing as we think He should.

The birth of Esau and Jacob,
Master of Jean de Mandeville,
French, Paris, about 1360-1370.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Family (2)

What do you do if a family member turns away from the family and decides they no longer belong?  Do you still love them? Yes.  Will you still stand up for them if they are in trouble?  Of course you do.  You show them love in the hope that they recognise the source of this love and "come home".  You will not cast them into the desert, order them never to return and hope they die.

Now what if you had not been a very good example as a parent, if your teaching and love had been less than perfect, if through your lack of love you had left a void into which that child had wandered.  What if your child had found in this void a "new" creation, something fascinating and energising and had embraced it? What if your child had found more love there (or something that felt more like love) than you had shown it?  I think you'd still love that child, and accept some of the responsibility for its decisions.  I think you may actually find that child more beautiful for being so bold and indeed that child may actually teach you much about love and the Truth through their journey. No amount of arguing over words, laws, teachings will bring them back.  Only silent, gentle love can do that.

The paragraph above describes Protestants of all shapes and sizes.  They are children of the Roman Church.  They filled a void created by our poor teaching, our lack of love and our poor examples. They embraced heresies that were already there.  Nothing is new under the sun.  There are contained within this the good, the bad and the ugly; for every Westbro Baptist, there is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I wish to argue that in a similar way, Islam is the child of the Universal Church.  I'd like to argue for her beauty, her learning, her boldness.  I'd like to argue that I've seen more "fellow travellers" amongst my Muslim friends than amongst my Catholic acquaintances.  There is a hunger and thirst for God.  There is a love of man and a spontaneous charity that puts most of us to shame.  Good Muslims humble me, shame me, they are so profoundly gentle, reasonable and totally God centred. In ordinary everyday Islam, you are more likely to see beautiful demonstrations of chaste love between married couples, you are more likely to see generosity and warmth of spirit, you are more likely to see sincere demonstrations of the love of God.  My late friend and dear parish priest would only ever go on holiday in Islamic countries and he'd say with a twinkle in his eyes "I loathe Catholics, why would I want to holiday with Catholics".  I know exactly what he means.  Some of us have a tendency to love all the more the child who has rebelled, to seek the good in that child, some of us find the child who has stayed at home a bit dull.  The child who has stayed at home needs shaking up, needs to feel the blood coursing through its veins, needs to grow up. The Church is Mother and she has no room for spoilt, lazy brats.

So I am arguing that our Muslim brothers need our support and prayers right now and most of all our love. I will repeat till my dying breath: Islam is not the enemy. Islam is in trouble because like western Christianity many of its followers, through western secular eduaction and immersion in that culture have an Elightenment mind-set that tries to box-in God; all transendence, all beauty, all that is numinous is ignored.  The angry young men and women of IS are Nihilists, they are more of a product of western philosophy and politics than they are of the Koran.The cancer that threatens to consume Islam is also there in Christianity, we must deal with the cancer and not let the patients die.

Granted, the Devil is alive and well and has been enjoying himself in Paris recently.  I think he is revisiting his old haunts where he's had such success in the past, and Paris was the scene of some of his finest moments during the Revolution.  He is particularly fond of Europe.  But he is not where you think he is.  He is dining with the rich and famous, he is eating at all the best restaurants, he loves high culture and fine clothes and he is using all the prettiest boys.  His aim is the destruction of all religion.  His aim is that humanity throws out the Infant with the bathwater.  And he will succeed unless we love and unless we behave like Christ.  And to do that we have to fail; we will be strung up, beaten, ridiculed and nailed to trees, but we have no choice.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Mercy me!

Perhaps "Mercy" is currently "on trend", here is Michael Gove talking about mercy and other things (and making sense) to those nice people at the Howard League for Penal Reform. Good words... Sincerity? Who knows....

File:Michael Gove at Policy Exchange delivering his keynote speech 'The Importance of Teaching'.jpg. Uploaded to creative commons Dec 2013
Actually, I have to admit that I thought he was one of the better Education Secretaries we've had, I am not actually seething about something he did (unlike Estelle Morris for example)... I must be losing the plot....

And just in case you are reaching for the smelling salts... here are some good Catholic words on Mercy from Bl Columba Marmion

Our miseries are very real; our weaknesses, our limitations, we know them well enough, but God knows them better than we do.  And the sense of our frailty -recognised and avowed - honours God.  And why so? Because there is in God one perfection wherein He wills to be eternally glorified, a perfection which is perhaps the key of all that befalls us here below; it is mercy.  Mercy is love in the face of misery; if there was no misery, there would be no mercy. The angels declare God's  holiness; but as for us, we shall be in heaven the living witnesses of the divine mercy; in crowning our works, God crowns the gift of His mercy, and it is this mercy that we shall exalt during all eternity in the bosom of our beatitude.

How different (yet not exactly so) divine mercy is from earthly mercy, and how necessary both are.  In both cases we have to know how much in need of it we are, otherwise it cannot be effective .....

Sunday, 25 October 2015


This is a post about post-synod fatigue.... and I wasn't even following it closely!

I have found peace in the Church, a peace the world cannot give.  She has fed me, she gave me nourishment through the Sacraments that flowed through her from God.  Her light and her wisdom are not Her own, they come from God, IS God, GLORIFIES GOD.

I have been through much, yet Christ has been by my side and Holy Scripture has ever been my consolation.  The Church has been my rock: Triumphant, Militant and Suffering.  The Church is One, Holy and Catholic.  The Church is timeless because Her Spouse is the same yesterday, today and forever.  She walks to Calvary at His side, her bridal attire in shreds, her glory hidden in His suffering, and He feeds Her, He consoles Her, He dignifies Her with the shedding of His Precious Blood, because He loves Her, madly, passionately, eternally and in covenant.  He is a fool for Her and we must be a fool for Him.  And through a glass dimly, we see something of Her true beauty,  Her marriage to her Spouse is the eternal delight in the house of the Father.

So, blindly and trustingly, at all hours of the day and night, willingly and unwillingly, with good heart and hardened heart, in season and out of season, I have done my best to follow Him.  I have had to rely on my intellect; weakness and illness injured my will and my heart is damaged and unreliable.  And He has been there for me and He leads me on......

He set me in Psalm 118.  I love Him, He is the Law, my intellect knows it and heart and my will consent.  He forever reveals the light of His Law , it grows and the more I see, the more I seek, the deeper it becomes and the less "I" understand.......  I simply follow where His Law takes me, I surrender all to that.....

And so this little sheep finds herself at the end of that long Psalm.  I have followed the Law, it has been my delight, I have become intoxicated with its beauty and like a drunk man after all the pubs have shut, I'm staggering down the road alone.  I am a lost sheep, I can't find the flock, and I can't see the shepherd, my intoxication is my isolation and now I am helpless....

Let thy hand be with me to save me;
for I have chosen thy precepts.
I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord
and thy law is my meditation.
My soul shall live and shall praise thee;
and thy judgements shall help me.
I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;
seek thy servant, 
because I have not forgotten thy commandments.
[Ps 118: 173-176]

I am bleating alone in a damp and desolate place with my intellect screaming at me that it simply can't understand anymore, that the Church simply does not make sense, that all clarity has gone....

And whilst my bleating is pathetic, weak willed, not entirely kindhearted and decidedly stubborn, I am bleating ¡Viva Cristo Rey ! and I ask for His Mercy.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Holy Horror

What are we seeing in the synod?

We are seeing worldliness.

Let Faber explain:

There is a hell already upon the earth; there is something which is excommunicated from God's smile.  It is not altogether matter, nor yet altogether spirit.  It is not man only, nor Satan only, nor is it exactly sin.  It is an infection, and inspiration, an atmospehere, a life, a colouring matter, a pageantry, a fashion, a taste, a witchery, an impersonal but a recognisable system.  None of these names suit it and all of them suit it.  Scripture calls it "The World".  God's mercy does not enter into it.  All hope of its reconciliation with Him is absolutely and eternally precluded.  Repentance is incompatible with its existence.  The sovereignty of God has laid the ban of the empire upon it: and holy horror ought to seize us when we think of it.  Meanwhile its power over the human creation is terrific, its presence ubiquitous, its deceitfulness incredible...

...It cannot be damned because it is not a person, but it will perish in the general conflagration.... we are living it, breathing it, acting under its influences, being cheated by its appearances, and unwarily admitting its principles

Faber doesn't advocate the remedy of total escape from the world into the severe aesthetic of the coenobite.  He argues that worldliness will follow us into that particular cell.  He argues simply that we put God first; remembering our smallness and His eternal majesty, remembering the hardness of our own hearts and His infinite love.  He argues for our continual remembrance of the Incarnation; that He came into the world because He loves us.  He argues that we forever remember that God's creation is good, and that it is only sin that corrupts and that He is not the author if sin.

I'd also add that I think it important we stop blaming the devil for all that we see. He'll be enjoying the credit too much, especially when he has hardly had to lift a finger and actually do anything.  The confusion is caused by worldliness more than the prince of this world.  The bottom line is, we only have ourselves to blame.  Our Lord and His Holy Scripture have spelt out in simple language the dangers of worldliness since the very beginning. It is worth reading John Chapter 17 carefully and humbly, about what it is to be a disciple and to live in the world, but not be of the world, because that is what God calls us to do.

Faber again....

It is not so much that it [the world] is a sin, as that it is the capability of all sins, the air sin breathes, the light by which it sees to do its work, the hot-bed which propagates and forces it, the instinct which guides it, the power which animates it .... It has laws of it own, and tastes and principles of its own, literature of its own, a missionary spirit, a compact system, and it is a consistent whole.  It is a counterfeit of the Church of God, and in the most implacable antagonism to it.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Holy Havoc

I am a person who is naturally drawn to being careful, who shuns the reckless, who loves order, stillness and silence.  I admit to finding these characteristics attractive in others and in consequence I could be accused of narcissism in my friendships.

There is certainly an essence of the Divine in order, carefulness, stillness and silence.  God can be found there and many have encountered Him in that stillness.

However, these things are not necessarily good in themselves.  What is harder to grasp is that the diabolical also has a love of order and stillness.  The order and stillness it loves is but a parody to the True order and stillness where God dwells.  But nevertheless it is an order and stillness in its own right and we must learn to discern its presence and avoid it.  Diabolical order can be found in the intricate record keeping and cataloguing that we do of everybody elses traits, habits and faults as well as our own.  Only the devil keeps a ledger.  God forgets and He does so every time we go to Confession and are truly repentant.  Diabolical order can be found in obsessive ritualism, in secret societies, in covert surveillance, the "old boys' network", in art collections and cellars full of fine wine. Diabolical stillness is terrifying.  It is the stillness of emptiness, the stillness without light or hope, a stillness that rejected love.  It is stillness where I picture Judas, where he acts as a sentinel at the permanently shut gates of oblivion.  Since the Resurrection there is no more oblivion, we are all judged because as He shared our humanity so we share in His Divinity. There can be no more oblivion as meted out to Sodom and Gomorrah, or the oblivion meted out at the Flood.... but at its gates, there is diabolical stillness.   The mystery is that so many seem to seek it out and seem to crave it.  It has a "spirituality" all of its own.

What about those things that leave me so uneasy: havoc, chaos and carelessness?  It is easy to see the negatives in these.  We can easily see how the devil can make use of these, indeed we can call him the "lord of misrule".  But they are not necessarily bad in themselves and this leads to the questions that have to be asked.  How does God make use of havoc, chaos and carelessness? Is there something in the Divine that actually works through havoc, chaos and carelessness?  Is there a way of loving God that involves havoc, chaos and carelessness?  The answer to these questions has to be YES, and this terrifies me.

There is a list of saints I don't much care for and in whom I can find nothing appealing.  They are saints who I am going to suggest reflect the Divine in their havoc, chaos and carelessness.  They loved God, period.  Nothing else got in the way.  They were stubborn, passionate, indiscriminate in their love and strong willed.  They simply can't be imitated.  And many who try end up achieving the exact opposite, moving away from God and being angry with Him because things don't go as they want them to. Many also have received great blessings from them, they are saintly heavyweights. Everything about them was driven by emotion, by the moment, by the stubborn love of God in that moment.  They terrify me.  Their sanctity is assured and I know that through them I am having to learn the uncomfortable lesson that holy havoc exists.  That God isn't a God of "Godly Order".... oh the irony!

And who are these saints?  I will name, St Therese of Lisieux,  St Francis of Assisi and St Pius X.  And our current Holy Father has a childlike trust and devotion to all of them.  We live in an age characterised by havoc, I think we must also accept it and let God work through it.

Quite probably true.

Prigogine's my Physics hero, and he may just be right here too.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The sickliness of self-deceit

When sanity seems to be leaving me, I turn to Faber.

I'm tired.
I'm ill and physical illness can make inroads into our spiritual life, there is noting intrinsically good or edifying about being ill.

I do hold with Faber that self-deceit is a real enemy to our salvation and one we never completely conquer this side of death.  So for personal reasons I post the following from Faber on self-deceit, but as this is something that affects us all and as these days are bonkers beyond belief, perhaps he can say something to you too. I sense that we actually want to be spiritually ill, or we want to diagnose everyone around us as ill.  We want to dissect every utterance made by everyone, we want to read our delusions into every speech made by every figure in the media.  And we want to come up with the conclusion that the only solution is for everyone to be as sick as we are.  Surely this is the height of self-deceit?  We are ill with self-deceit and the sterile sick room that we are living in is hell's own waiting room.

The power of the kingdom of sin rests simply in self-deceit.  The picture, you think is gloomy. I grant it.  Yet not disheartening.  It is the old story.  You will not serve God out of love, and then you abuse preachers for unsettling you.  You want unsettling.  I wish I could unsettle you. I wish you had the grace to be unsettled.  Digging does good.  It loosens the roots, lets in the sun and rain.  What can be more vexatious than an obstinate shrub which will not grow?  It always reminds me of souls, - so stiff, and concentrated, and dull, and pert, and self-satisfied in its yellow primness.

A simple childlike love of Jesus always goes safely through these dangers of self-deceit, almost without being aware of their existence.  

There is something intensely sickly about the spiritual life.  It is nothing but unbandaging, examining sores, bandaging them up again, smelling salts, rooms with blinds down, and I know not what dishounourable invalidisms and tottering convalsecences.

And Faber's remedy.....

It seems to me no slight temptation to love God with a headlong love, in order that one's soul may not be sickened with these degrading symptoms or valetudinarian sensations of the spiritual life, but live a robust, out-of-doors kind of religious experince.  Yet many people like to be ill.  It shows how little the thought of God is in them; for that thought, grave, kindly, sober, earnest, is an inexorable exorcism of all sickliness.

So let us seek that thought of God, and let us strive for that robust, manly outdoors kind of faith, the faith you can take anywhere.  We will still be sick, but atleast there is some chance of improvement.... and let us get away from the stifling sickroom that social media has become. It seems to do little but feed our self-deceit.

Some dead shrubs for your edification.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Poor Jephtha

It appears that today’s OT reading in the Novus Ordo is the sorry tale of Jephtha the Gileadite. It is a strange choice as Fr Bede Rowe implies on his blog.  However, as all scripture can be used to instruct and is inspired by God [2Tim 3:16], here is my attempt to extract some wisdom from the narrative.  I am very against the idea that since this is unpleasant and in the OT, it can be glossed over with a “phew, thank goodness we don’t live like that anymore”.  In many ways, the more society forgets the sovereignty of Christ, the more we are living in the time of the Judges and the refrain throughout that book is “in those days the was no king in Israel”, and it always precludes something dreadful happening because people take matters into their own hands. 

My theory is that often the naturally good men of this world are Jephthas; they are despised (he was the son of a harlot and denied father’s inheritance), they are noble (he was a mighty warrior), they trust God and know their faith and are reasonable when treating the enemy (see Judges 11:12-28 where he send messages to the king of the Ammonites explaining the legitimate right of Israel to the land), and their hearts are broken.

The Spirit of the Lord inspires him to decide to fight the Ammonites and then he makes his terrible vow, that if God grants him victory, then he will sacrifice to the Lord, the first from his house who comes to meet him when he returns victorious.  And as we know this is his only child, his daughter.  She calmly accepts her fate but asks to go into the hills to bewail her virginity for a while before he kills her. Then poor old Jephtha acts as Judge over Israel for six years and has to deal with infighting amongst the children of Israel, he really must have wondered if it was all worth it.  I see him as a good man but a broken man (as Millais’ depiction shows with astonishing clarity- see below). Jephtha is no fool.

What about that vow?  Did God inspire him to make it?  I’d argue that vows are freely offered to God, they come from within the creature to glorify God, but they have to rise up in a soul who is broken, the vow is meant to strengthen the bond between the Creator and the creature to make the creature more at one with God.  I’d argue that vows may or may not be flawed (this one is certainly flawed) but that they must be executed*. This vow was not a direct inspiration from God, its price is too high, after all God spared Isaac from Abraham’s knife, God does not want holocaust.  And here sorry old Jephtha knows that he has to do that which fate and his ego have conspired together to give the Lord. The story must have been a great inspiration to David as the psalms over and over again say how the Lord does not want sacrifice and holocaust, but that He wants our humility and our love. Poor Jephtha, I really do think he was just a victim of his own pride and a pride that wasn’t in itself seriously sinful. 

And then then there is the shocking irony; those Ammonites that he fought and was victorious over were known to offer child sacrifices to their god, Moloch.  And here is Jephtha sacrificing his own daughter to the Lord, the God if Israel. It is enough to make you weep.  But there is a lesson in this, that sin causes the destruction of the innocent.  Does Jephtha’s daughter prefigure Christ?  Do we not see here that ultimately victory is extracted at a terrible price.

And what of Jephtha’s daughter herself?  She bewails her virginity as all good daughters of Israel would do.  They would see their ultimate fulfilment as giving birth to the Messiah, so dying a virgin is not a good thing for them.  But the Messiah was truly born of a virgin.  The virgin state is something that is exalted in the New Testament.  The virgin state was precious under the old dispensation but only as a precursor to marriage.  In these last times virginity itself is prized.  But that doesn’t mean that the mourning has stopped.  We should weep for the state of the world that we actually need consecrated virgins.  There would be no need for consecrated virgins if there was no sin, and sin should make us weep.  So now unlike Jephtha’s daughter who had no choice, we can freely give ourselves to God as virgins and there is no further need for the annual remembrance of her fate that the daughters of Israel used to enact.  And isn’t she righteous?  If she had wanted to experience to pleasure of sexual intercourse, there was nothing stopping her from doing so, her sin could have gone unnoticed by the world.  What was stopping her was chastity and continence and those are fruits of the Spirit of the Lord.

Jephtha and his daughter are two heroic and tragic figures in the Old Testament, but how many these days come close to them in their ardent righteousness and love of the Lord?

* Any vow we make is in imitation of the covenant God makes with His people.  God never breaks His covenant, so we ought not to break our vows.  That is why making a vow is such a serious matter and ought not to be attempted lightly.  I suppose we only learn what frustratingly hard work we must be for God through sticking to a vow, and that ought to make us love Him so much more and ought to humble us in the knowledge that we can do nothing good without Him.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Liturgy liturgy liturgy...

Father said something in his homily for the Assumption that got me sifting through the various scripture readings from Mass for this feast.  I have put together the readings from the 1924 Missale Romanum, the 1962 and the Novus Ordo.  I have used Dr Challoner's English throughout to make comparisons fairer and I am not going to give much comment as I think there is a thesis in this and my Mariology is not up to scratch.  I'll just say what strikes me most about each version and leave you, dear reader, to your own thoughts.

Firstly from my grandfather's 1924 Missal.  The first reading is beautiful.  I like the emphasis on Our Lady's power.  It links to the protoevangelium where God promises that through one of His creatures, a daughter of Eve, the serpent will be vanquished: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head Gen 3:15. The Gospel reading came as a bit of a shock.  I wasn't expecting to read about Our Lord in the house of Mary and Martha.  It is not a reading that has (at first glance) anything to do with Our Lady.  However it is nice to have a Gospel reading that contains the spoken words of Our Lord (this has subsequently been lost). And the words are full of promise.  If the Word indwells in us, then then this cannot be taken from us.  What is promised to the Mary Magdalene (and therefore to us) is fulfilled TOTALLY in the Immaculate Conception and reaches its earthly climax in her Assumption.

The readings are gentle and intimate.

Pre Pius XII 
Eccli 24, 11-13, 15-20
And by my power I have trodden under my feet the hearts of all the high and low: and in all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord. Then the creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and he that made me, rested in my tabernacle, And he said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. And so was I established in Sion, and in the holy city likewise I rested, and my power was in Jerusalem.
And I took root in an honourable people, and in the portion of my God his inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints. I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on mount Sion. I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho: As a fair olive tree in the plains, and as a plane tree by the water in the streets, was I exalted. I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon. and aromatical balm: I yielded a sweet odour like the best myrrh: 

Luc 10:38-42
Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord' s feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me.
And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her. 

Secondly, here is the pre VII text dating from after the proclamation of the Dogma of the Assumption.
I do like hearing Judith's story.  She is a type of Our Lady and again this links beautifully to the protoevangelium. The feast of the Assumption should be a day of great rejoicing and perhaps the full triumphant  nature of the feast could not have been brought out till after the proclamation of the dogma. The Gospel reading comes as no surprise, though there is no real link to the Assumption.  The link that was so subtly there in the Martha and Mary narrative. There is much in both readings about the humble submission of the creature to the direction and desire of the Creator.  And there is much in that to make us all leap for joy.

1962 Missal
Jud 13:22-25, 15:10 
And they all adored the Lord, and said to her: The Lord hath blessed thee by his power, because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought. And Ozias the prince of the people of Israel, said to her: Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth, who hath directed thee to the cutting off the head of the prince of our enemies. Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever, for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God. Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people: 

Luke 1: 41-50
 And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
  And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. 

And lastly here is the Novus Ordo.  There is so much text! And I'm afraid, I'll start with a criticism: why does the reading from the Apocalypse not finish at the end of verse 10 of chapter 6?  I have included it in square brackets.  It would have been nice if these words had been included as they would have linked nicely to the protoevangelium.  The participation of His creature in the desires of God is more passive here. Though she is at her most glorious (clothed with the sun), things are happening to the Woman and she reacts: she is crying, she is in pain, she flees into the wilderness. The Apocalypse reading is not essentially about the "fiat" or Our Lady's victory, it is about the effects of sin on the sinless, it is either the most appropriate reading for the Assumption or the least, I can't quite decide. The second reading from 1 Corinthians continues with this new theme.  It is about Christ's victory over death and God's covenant to all who remain faithful. This is a fine reading, but it does not cover the creature's participation in the work of salvation that is so significantly Our Lady's work. Her work in crushing the serpent that lead to His victory.  It is  probably there to down play the protoevangelium and be in tune with modern biblical scholarship which says "it shall crush" the serpent's head rather than "she".  There is nothing explicitly female in the role of vanquishing the serpent in the modern translations.

The Gospel reading is as the 1962 (only longer......).

Novus Ordo
Rev 11:19, 12:1-6.10
 And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple.
 And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God.And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: [because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our God day and night.] 

1 Cor 15:20-26
 But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep:
For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in his own order: the firstfruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming. Afterwards the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, when he shall have brought to nought all principality, and power, and virtue. For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet.
And the enemy death shall be destroyed last: For he hath put all things under his feet.

Luke 1:39-56
 And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth.
And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.  He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house.

Monday, 27 July 2015


It is the appetite incontinence of our adult years I wish to write about and not any toilet related use of the word.

Aristotle in the Nichomachean Ethics explains the difference between the continent and the incontinent thus: Again, the incontinent man acts with appetite, but not with choice; while the continent man on the contrary acts with choice [will or purpose], but not with appetite. Ethics III 2.

Incontinence is a stage beyond sin.  Sin has to be a wilful transgression of the Law of God, to quote Tanquerey.  It has to be an act of disobedience.  If the incontinent man is somehow beyond making a choice over his actions, then he is not sinning.  The drug addict, the alcoholic, the compulsive masturbator, the glutton and others have probably all moved beyond sin into an incontinent state where they have no choice of how to act. A state where they are a complete slave to a particular appetite.  This is wretched, this is surely a living hell.

How do people arrive at this state?  One would like to think that the all powerful efficacy of the Sacrament of Confession would protect the sinner from such a horrid fall.  An initial sin is confessed, it is done as sincerely as the penitent knows how.... and yet this fall into a state of complete wretchedness ensues. What went wrong?  Was God so petty as to not "like" the sincerity of the confession and to punish the sinner accordingly?  No, this can not be the reason.  Perhaps it is best not to analyse the reasons why things go wrong, but to understand the charity that is needed in helping these souls reach a point where they can be continent again.  We ought to desire their continence; it is only the continent that can grow in virtue, it is only the continent that fully respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit,  it is only the continent that can truly sing the praise of God.  There is no real happiness in incontinence.  It is not a state God wants us to be in.

And this is where I feel the Church could be doing a lot more, this is where I feel the Church has in some quarters lost her way....

1Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or a railer or a coveter of other men's things.

And I will quote this in the Latin of the Vulgate too, because there is something about the Vulgate that no translation seems to do justice.

Nemo autem vestrum patiatur ut homicidi, aut fur, aut maledictus, aut alienorum appetitor.

That phrase "alienorum appetitor" is the key to all of this, methinks.  "Foreign appetites" is perhaps a better translation, certainly it is about appetites that did not come from God,  it is about "foreign tastes", "lusts"; things contrary to God's designs and God's plans for our happiness.

But there is Peter telling us not to suffer for these things.  Peter in both his letters makes it clear that all suffering must be conformed to the suffering of Christ.  He says that true suffering is suffering or bearing the burden of another's transgressions, like Christ, who was without sin suffered the consequences of all our sin.  Therefore we should not suffer for our sin, we must recognise it and manfully stare it in the face, but we must not suffer for it. We must be become like Christ and if some future suffering comes our way, then we can glory in it, because it is the life of Christ Our King... It is not rocket science... it is our Faith.

Yet, how often do we hear from the Church that those with an "alienorum appetitor" must unite their sufferings to the cross.  BUT their suffering is NOT like Christ's..... how can you unite to the cross your misery at having a "foreign appetite", or your misery at not being able to consummate your "foreign appetites"? The Church says your appetites are intrinsically disordered and then tells you to "suffer" them... but this seems to contrary to Peter. I worry about the Church.

We all have some "alienorum appetitor", and sooner or later we will give in to it... and maybe it will lead to incontinence and complete wretchedness. I suppose the thing to do is not to nurture it in the first place, not to even think about developing a taste for it.... yet we do, and the Church has ceased in many quarters to insist in the necessity that we have control of our "tongue, genitals and stomach"...

And what to do with our incontinent? I feel even the Devil can't be bothered with them. And maybe that is the key, God still loves them, some light can still fall on them, some extraordinary act of grace can still fall upon them,  and if they can respond with even the slightest flicker of recognition, then astounding things can happen.  And for the rest of us, we must just pray, with all lightness of heart, with the faith that can move mountains, glorifying the Lord in our hearts and our deeds.... and then the incontinent can be lifted out of the pit they fell into all for the greater glory of God.

It still remains a tragedy that we let so many fall down there in the first place.